Mike Wallace conducted an interview last month on CBS’s 60 Minutes program with Iran’s president Ahmadinejad that was unusual in several respects. Wallace didn’t come across as an attack-dog interviewer and was actually quite reserved. Nevertheless, he asked some of the questions that needed asking. He asked about the comments vowing to wipe Israel off the map; about his statements that the Holocaust was a myth; about his support for Hezbollah and supplying them with arms; and about freedom in Iran.
When it was all said and done, however, Wallace was satisfied with the answers and seemed to think the Iranian president was a reasonable guy. There are lessons here as the U.S. Government, the European Union, and the United Nations pursue “negotiations” with Iran over its nuclear weapons program.
Ahmadinejad was skillful. When he was asked about Hezbollah’s use of Iranian missiles against Israel, he ducked the question and turned it around, bringing up the fact that Israel was attacking Hezbollah with American bombs.
Wallace stayed tough, asking, “Who supports Hezbollah? Who has given hundreds of millions of dollars for years? Who has given Hezbollah Iranian-made missiles and rockets that is making?”
Predictably, Ahmadinejad played rope-a-dope on this one, laughing and appearing superficially reasonable to those gullible enough to accept him at face value. Still, his cynicism and contempt for the West-and for Wallace-were apparent.
What was said off camera was even more interesting. In an Associated Press story on August 9, a day after the interview with Ahmadinejad, but four days before it aired on 60 Minutes, it became apparent that Wallace was quite taken by the Iranian leader. Wallace called him “an impressive fellow,” “smart as hell,” and “more rational than I had expected.”
Other reports had Wallace calling him a “reasonable” man and that he is not anti-Semitic, just anti-Zionist. Wallace apparently believed Ahmadinejad’s claim that he hopes for peaceful co-existence between Iran and the West.
In a radio interview with Sean Hannity, Wallace rejected any comparison of Ahmadinejad to Hitler. And in response to Hannity noting his repeated calls for “wiping out” Israel, the following exchange took place:
MW: Yes, he says wipe off the map, and of course I asked him over and over about that. He says in effect, hey, it’s perfectly sensible to do…pardon me. It’s perfectly sensible for them, and I’m not quoting directly, obviously, because I don’t have the translation in front of me, to…for them to…it’s perfectly sensible, if there is a Holocaust, and let’s buy the fact that there was a Holocaust. Where did the Holocaust take place? Did it take place in an Arab neighborhood? Did it take place in Jerusalem? No. It took place in Germany. Then it seems to me, under those circumstances, take Israel, the Zionist entity, he called it, move it to Germany. Move it to Europe. That’s where it happened.
SH: Do you agree with him?
MW: Move it to the United States.
SH: Do you think that’s a legitimate argument?
MW: It’s an argument. I’m not a commentator. You are.
It is apparent that Wallace, for some reason, came under Ahmadinejad’s spell. This demonstrates that the Iranian leader is a force to be reckoned with. If he can fool Mike Wallace, perhaps he can deceive U.S. and European diplomats. Perhaps he already has.